What will you do if you just have 24 hours in Hoi An? This article will give you some recommendations about things to do, what to eat in Hoi An within a day.
Hoi An by Tứ Khoa Lâm
Something about Hoi An ancient town
Hoi An ancient town is located on the lower course of the Thu Bon River, Quang Nam province which is about 30km from Da Nang city. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Hoi An used to be one of the busiest international trading ports of Southeast Asia. But by the 19th century, waterway transportation in Hoi An was no longer to be an advantage. The number of international trading ships decreased, and this situation gradually drove Hoi An into recession, made way for Da Nang which was developed by the French at that time. However, maybe thanks to this reason, Hoi An was luckily not affected by deformation process of urbanization, meanwhile, it can keep the whole perfect ancient beauty of an Asian port. In 1999, Hoi An was officially recognized to be a World’s cultural heritage. Since then, the number of both national and foreign tourists coming to Hoi An has been increasing, which has waken this old town up after a long sleep. Till now, Hoi An has become one of the most attractive destinations not only of Vietnam and Asia, but also of the whole world.
Then, if you have 24 hours in this wonderful place, what will you do? If you don’t know, let me show you.
In the morning
At sunrise, when the old town gets up and starts a new long exciting day, it’s the moment that you shouldn’t miss. It seems like a fresh and simple morning in the paintings of Bui Xuan Phai, a painter specializes in drawing Hanoi Old Quarter, but here it’s not Hanoi, it’s Hoi An. The morning will be very beautiful if the weather is lovely with nice early sunshine, women wearing leaf conical hats busy with their street vendors, bicycles ridden around the town, closed ancient houses, not very crowded streets… That’s such a peaceful picture! What you should do is walking into the town at 5 or 6 a.m to totally enjoy this whole fresh moment.
Hoi An in the morning by Tứ Khoa Lâm
1. Baguette for breakfast
After walking, you need to “charge” yourself for a new day. Get a Banh mi from Ms. Phuong’s restaurant (at 2B Phan Chu Trinh St.) or Madame Khanh’s (at 135 Tran Cao Van St.), just one baguette with pork, scrumptious pate, fresh vegetable and the owner’s “magic source” will help you have enough energy for your upcoming activities. Because of the delicious flavor, these two banh mi shops are really famous not only in Vietnam but also all over the world. It costs averagely 20,000 VND for one banh mi.
2. Enjoying street coffee
After buying a baguette, you bring it to a familiar coffee shop in Hoi An, enjoy it, drink coffee while watching the Hoai river in a peaceful early morning. That’s a really great experience. Hoi An people usually drink coffee at some street coffee shops on the sidewalk of the river before the motorcycles banning hours. An aromatic cup of coffee can make you feel awake for the whole day. There are 2 well-known street coffee shops for locals in Hoi An: one is Ms. Thao’s located at the turning point from Japanese Covered Bridge to the An Hoi Bridge - the favorite choice of the young; the other is opposite to Ms. Thao’s in the night cuisine area – the ideal destination of middle-aged people.
3. Visiting ancient houses
If you want to discover the life and culture of Hoi An people, visiting the old houses and the social or spiritual buildings here is the best choice. Quang Dong and Fujian Assembly Hall, Tan Ky, Phung Hung and Quan Thang Ancient Houses, Japanese Bridge, Ong pagoda, Tran Family Chapel and Sa Huynh Museum are the typical ancient constructions of the old town. However, to visit these places, you need to buy a ticket which costs 6 USD/person for 5 destinations among 21 sightseeing places and 1 place for traditional art show.
In the afternoon
After spending the whole morning walking around all of the old town’s destinations, you will find it relaxing and comfortable when you take a nap at Reaching Out Tea House or going to the beach and enjoying sea wind,…
1. Hoi An’s Chicken Rice
Have your lunch and prepare energy yourself for the afternoon by chicken rice. It is one of the most famous dishes of the town. You can have chicken rice at the most famous chicken rice restaurant - Ba Buoi – Madam Buoi at 22 Phan Chau Trinh St.
2. Find a quiet space
After lunch, taking a rest and relaxing in the quiet atmosphere in Reaching Out Tea House will be your best choice. This is a pretty famous café in Hoi An. With all the staffs are deaf people, this café brings you to a gentle and peaceful world which is really different from the bustling town close to it. The cost for a 30-minute noon-rest and reading book or drinking tea in Reaching Out is not too high, just from 1 USD - 4 USD.
3. Going to the beach
In summer, you can rent a bicycle or motorcycle to go to Cua Dai or An Bang beach to swim or just simply to lie on the white sand on the beach, under the coconut trees or outside for sunbathing. (At present, Cua Dai beach is in recovery time, hence, you can go to An Bang beach only – one of the 50 most beautiful beaches in the world – about 1km from Cua Dai).
3. Eating snacks
In the afternoon, nothing is more interesting than eating snacks at street food stalls and vendors. You can find many dishes which is very delicious, cheap and hard to resist yourself not trying them such as grilled pork skewers wrapped in rice paper with vegetables (10,000 VND/one skewer), fried meat cake (10,000VND/each), water fern cake (5,000VND/one bowl), pork skin - shaped cake (2,000 VND/ cake), lablab bean sweet soup, tofu (10,000VND/ one cup),… These are sold along the pavements of some big streets like Tran Phu, Nguyen Thai Hoc. Hoi An is considered a heaven for foodies.
4. Visiting Cam Kim island
You can spend 30 minutes of your afternoon going to Cam Kim island by ferry to visit the famous Kim Bong carpentry village or just do something different by going boating, enjoying cool breezes on the Thu Bon River. The ferry is available every 10 minutes with the cost of 10,000 VND/person/turn.
After 10 minutes, you get to Cam Kim. Then start to visit the boat building workshop near the harbor. After that, you can visit Huynh Ri workshop, see the craftsmen make furniture from wood. All is interesting!
In the evening
1. Eating Cao Lau
It’s no need for you to wonder what to eat for the evening, because you can easily find an extremely typical dish of Hoi An which is suitable for dinner – Cao Lau. With yellow chewy noodles, mixed with fragrant tasty sauce, char siu (pork bbq), herbs and deep fried cao lau in square shape, this dish is simply attractive in “Hoi an style”. It costs from 20, 000 VND - 25,000 VND/bowl. Many people find it delicious and want to eat more than one bowl if they are still hungry.
2. Walking around the town
After dinner, people lighten the old town by many colorful lanterns. An evening in Hoi An starts with sparkling lights from the ancient houses mirrored on the Hoai river, the streets with colored lanterns hung up, the colorful Japanese Covered Bridge, the An Hoi Bridge,...
Walking around to enjoy the view of the old town at that moment, joining in some amusing activities such as going boating on the Hoai river, releasing small paper lanterns, playing Bingo game on Bach Dang street, eating snacks in night cuisine area near the Japanese Bridge, buying some souvenirs in the night market on the other side of the river…are really interesting.
There are so many things for you to do in the evening in Hoi An, and they are really cheap also. Going boating on the Hoai river costs from 20,000 VND to 100,000 VND (the more people on a boat, the cheaper it costs), and only 5,000 VND for a small paper lantern with a candle inside.
Hoi An is at its most beautiful at night without crowd, noise, tourists, shops and when there are only old houses lying side by side in silence. It is said that everything in Hoi An has not been changed since the 17th and 18th centuries until now. However, it didn’t stay one hundred percent like what in the past, at least there are some changes about the people. Perhaps, just only the old town at night has no change for hundreds of years. The ancient houses are still side by side, still beautiful but deep in meditation.
You walk in the town at night, sometimes for no reason, just walk, walk to find something in your heart, to go back in time. Sometimes maybe you will be lucky to find something precious and meaningful on the streets…
3. Going to a bar and enjoying some drinks
For those are beer or cocktail lovers, going to some bars in the old town like Dive Bar on Nguyen Thai Hoc street, Before and Now on Le Loi street or many other bars on Nguyen Phuc Chu street, An Hoi island is a great thing to do at night in Hoi An. There, you can make some friends and enjoy the night!
A day in Hoi An will end with a bit weariness, because there are so many places for you to go, many streets to walk, various things to do, but it’s still a memorable day filled with many experiences. The last thing you do in the last hours of a day in Hoi An is going to sleep on a soft bed and have a sweet dream.
How to get to Hoi An
Just 30km from Danang city, it takes you only over 30 minutes to ride or drive to Hoi An ancient town. From Da Nang, you can get to Hoi An by motor taxis (xe om), taxis, private cars or buses. Every 20 minutes, you can get a bus starting from Da Nang central coaches and bus station to Hoi An station (1km from city center), which just costs 20,000 VND/person. The last bus starting at around 5.50 p.m is the emptiest bus bringing you to Hoi An which can give you an interesting experience.